Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/242

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No need. Molly has answered herself. “Yep, just a second I’ll be with yu, Jim, old kid.”

She passes out between the rockers, hatless, free of elbow, wanton of stocking, neither mother of to-morrow nor daughter of yesterday.

“Where you bound for, Molly?” Andy writhes. He feels degraded.

“Where you bound?” Isaiah writhes. He, too, had sworn never to ask again.

“Oh, nowheres. Up to the dance at Chatham, that’s all. Oh, for the love, Jimmy, can that honking, will yu! I’m on my way! Now, Daddies, run, climb in your beds like good boys. Sound sleep, sweet dreams!”

Sleep! Dreams! The mockery!

Their rockers are still. Leaning forward, squeezing the chair-arms with their vein-corded fists, they follow the iron flight of the centaur, cast back in fainter and fainter reverberations from the folded moor-sides, careening farther away, deeper away in the mists of the falling night.

He’s going up Graveyard Hill now. If only their legs could run as swiftly as their minds. He’s abreast of the old Snow place now. Thrrrmmm! Whine and wheeze! An abominable whisper threading the valleys. It’s louder for an instant, as though a door in the hills had opened. He’s crossing the marsh at the Centre now, this what-is-he? This Greek. This what’s-his-name? J. Krenk, General Trucking. Jimmy the Greek. And Molly Brewster!

Anger, reckless and helpless, sweeps them.

Let him take her. Let him take her back to his lemon-peddling, olive-stinking, two-for-a-nickel Levant ports. Then let her see!

Then let her think of those White women, the other Mollys, her mothers!

Memories submerge the two men; their tantrum passes and gives place to nostalgia; they turn cowards, feeling themselves abandoned, defeated at last. The mosquito-bar is a cage, oppressing their lungs and bringing to their skins a faint, chill sweat. Moved by a common impulse, they get up and rush out. They have forgotten their hats, and Isaiah’s head is as bald as a porpoise. What matter? Their rheumatics! Their hearts! What odds!